Chapter 03 – The Salvation Issue
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Here is I think one of the biggest things that happens when somebody dies. If you were very close to that person and you were serving the Lord together, you know that they were ready to meet the Lord.
You rejoice that you will see them again in heaven. But that is not always the case. Sometimes that person may have been a bit wayward. They may have been a bit rebellious or perhaps lived a life that was not a good testimony for a Christian.
Perhaps you had a son or a daughter, or another close relative that has died and you wonder to yourself,
“Were they saved? Were they ready to meet the Lord? Did they make right with God before they died?”
Isn’t that the big thing that you ask yourself? If you use that kind of expression I know what kind of preaching you have been subjected to. It is the kind of preaching where the pastor stands up and says at the end of his sermon,
“If you are here tonight and have accepted the Lord, but you know your life has not been right, if Jesus would come tonight would you be ready? If you were to die right now, would you be ready to stand before the Lord? Is your life right with God?”
Then they get everybody to go to the front to rededicate their life to the Lord. I hate preaching like that! I grew up with it, and every time I sat in that seat I thought,
“I wonder if I am ready? I wonder if my life is right with God?”
Well it may be that for the last while the person did not show anything Christian-like at all. In fact they may have been completely off the rails and into something really bad. Were they ready? Did they go to heaven or did they go to hell?
For a person who is grieving, it can be very devastating to think,
“If they weren’t ready and they went to hell, I am never going to see them again.”
How can you give comfort, knowing that they are lost?
I want to put this to sleep once and for all. Salvation is by faith and not by works. The Scripture is very clear and says in Ephesians 2:8,
By grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves.
If that person committed their life to the Lord and received Him as their Lord and Savior, they were saved. And if they were saved, they were born again and they were ready to meet the Lord.
You might say, “Yes, but what if they lost their salvation?”
Then do they have to get born again again? Some people have been born again over and over again. But you can’t get born again again. You are either born again or you are not.
I might say, “When my children are naughty, I don’t even want to acknowledge that they carry my name.”
But they are still my children. They still carry my blood and my DNA.
When you are born into the family of God, you are eternally and spiritually born to belong to him. If you make a mess of it you are simply going to arrive in heaven as the lowest citizen. You are going to be a pauper and your rewards are going to be zero. You will however still get to heaven.
The Scripture says that your works will be tried by fire. If you have built wood, hay and stubble they will get burned up. You will end up in heaven by the skin of your teeth and with nothing, but you will still be there.
If you built with gold, silver and precious stones you have something to build with. Maybe they can make a good mansion out of that. I don’t like talking about the subject of mansions, but that is another subject t.
If the person who has died made a commitment to the Lord, you don’t have to fear and say,
“Did they make it to heaven and did they make right with God?”
You don’t make right with God to get into heaven. You make right with God to begin to walk once again in His blessings, in His power and to enjoy what salvation is about.
So many people are rebuilding the foundation and looking for cracks in it. As a preacher you had better be careful that you are not imposing that on them.
Do you know what happens to the church members of every preacher who is forever telling people that they are going to lose their salvation? They appear to lose their salvation. They give up, they go off and say,
“What is the point of trying? I can’t keep this up. I’m just too sinful and too useless.”
What assurance are you giving people? I was devastated when I taught the first class in the Pastoral School on soteriology which is the subject of salvation. I asked the students,
“How do you know you are saved? Tell me how and when you got saved?”
People who were training to be apostles didn’t have a full understanding of their salvation; all because of the way they were brought up, trained and taught. As I shared above, the Scripture says,
By grace you are saved through faith.
All you have to say is,
“Lord, I reach out to you and I receive you as my Savior.”
Your salvation is instant. How long did it take the thief on the cross to do that? He simply said,
“Lord, remember me when you come into paradise.”
Jesus replied, “You are saved.”
But people are saying,
“You have to show fruits of salvation you know.”
I once heard someone preaching and they said,
“When you accept the Lord, that is only the conception. Sometimes it takes nine months for the birth to take place. It is only when the baby is born that it is really living now. You actually only got saved when it became a reality.”
That is rubbish! You are taking away peoples’ hope and their assurance of salvation.
I grew up looking at people like the Catholics, who pray to Mother Mary and believe in the priests. They never preach the gospel and nobody gets saved there.
But suddenly God began to move with His Spirit in what became known as the Charismatic Movement, and Catholic priests and nuns started talking in tongues. People said,
“Lord, don’t you know that they are not saved? How can you give them the Spirit?”
God knew something we didn’t. You don’t know the state of a person’s heart, but you might say,
“I didn’t see any fruits.”
When a seed is planted you don’t see that fruit. But that seed has germinated and has begun to grow. Your plant is there. It’s like saying,
“We can abort a baby because it is not a real baby yet.”
It is the same kind of logic.
You had better understand salvation yourself if you are going to counsel somebody in grief, where someone has died in the family and they are not sure whether they made it to heaven or not.
Only One Fatal Sin
I am going to take a more extreme scenario now, but before I get there I want to show you this. There is only one sin that will take anybody to hell. That sin is unbelief or rejection of the Lord.
The Catholics teach mortal and venial sins. Venial sins are sins that are not bad enough to take you to hell. Mortal sin on the other hand takes you straight to hell. Venial sins are not so bad. You can deal with them with penance and stuff like that.
So little sins like telling lies, stealing and things like that are little sins. But things like committing adultery and murder will take you straight to hell.
But what does the Scripture say? James 2:10 says,
For whoever will observe the whole law and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.
When you steal that pencil from work, you are as guilty as someone who committed murder or adultery in God’s eyes because you broke the law.
Sin is sin. But we become so self-righteous in our little holiness and our ability to avoid the big sins, that we stand in condemnation of others and say,
“This person is supposed to be a Christian, but look at him getting high on drugs. He is living a life of sin. How can God accept him?”
The same way He accepted you. And the same way He is still accepting the sins you commit every day. Because your salvation is not based on your ability to stop sinning. It is based on your faith in Him and His ability to help you stop sinning.
Here is the most crucial one that people face. What if the person who died killed themselves by committing suicide?
You might say, “That is murder. And since they killed themselves they didn’t have a chance to repent of their sin before they died.”
Their sin of course is what caused their death. You see at least in another death, in their dying, gasping moments, the person may have cried out and said,
“Lord, forgive me.”
But how many people do that? How many people who are killed in a motor accident had time to say,
“Lord, forgive me for the sins I committed today.”
Is that person going to hell now? But in the case of suicide people say,
“They committed murder and killed themselves.”
But you told a lie, so that is different? No, not in God’s eyes because sin is sin.
So many people are in agony because their loved one was driven to suicide. And they feel they will never see them again because of that.
We have heard of cases where men of God who were pastors in church, committed suicide because of the extreme circumstances they were driven to.
But let’s be very careful not to stand in judgment. Let’s be there to encourage those who are bereaved. Let’s motivate them, lift them up and comfort them to know God was there. He knew about it.
If that person committed their life to the Lord they are in His hands. You will see them one day when you enter into His presence.
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